Another Armenian Policeman Shot By Opposition Gunmen Dies

RFE/RL Armenian Service

Armenia - Gagik Mkrtchian, a police officer killed after a July 17 armed attack on a police station in Yerevan
Armenia – Gagik Mkrtchian, a police officer killed after a July 17 armed attack on a police station in Yerevan

Another Armenian police officer shot by opposition gunmen died on Saturday after succumbing to wounds sustained in last month’s armed attack on a police station in Yerevan where he served.

The death of Senior Warrant Officer Gagik Mkrtchian raised to three the number of police officers killed during the Armenian authorities’ two-week standoff with armed members of a radical opposition movement demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.

All 31 members of the armed group laid down their arms by July 31. Security forces did not kill any of them.

The gunmen shot five policemen and took several others hostage when they attacked and seized a police compound in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district early on July 17. One of the officers, Colonel Artur Vanoyan, died on the spot.

Mkrtchian, 45, was wounded in the chest and abdomen. He underwent four surgeries but never regained consciousness.

Doctors at Yerevan’s Astghik Medical Center were still trying to save Mkrtchian’s life on Friday evening. But as one of them told the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily: “His wounds are incompatible with life.”

“He did not retreat and surrender [during the attack] and instead sacrificed his life for his 6-year-old son, for all of our children, for all people,” the Armenian police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, said, announcing Mkrtchian’s death.

The third police casualty, Yury Tepanosian, was killed on July 30, the day before the 20 remaining gunmen holed up in the Erebuni compound surrendered to law-enforcement authorities. The police said the 30-year-old father of three was shot by one of the gunmen as he sat in a police car parked about 400 meters from the besieged compound.

Varuzhan Avetisian, the gunmen’s leader, insisted that Tepanosian was not gunned down by his armed group. Avetisian claimed that the officer’s car was not visible from the compound.

The police responded by releasing photographs meant to prove that the gunmen were able to see and shoot at Tepanosian’s car. They also circulated a short video purportedly showing a man with a sniper rifle taking a position on the roof of a police building inside the compound.

The gunmen urged Armenians to join their “rebellion” immediately after capturing the police facility. They demanded that Sarkisian free the jailed leader of their Founding Parliament movement, Zhirayr Sefilian, and step down.

The deadly attack came almost one month after Sefilian was arrested for allegedly acquiring large quantities of weapons to stage an anti-government revolt. The Lebanese-born oppositionist and his nationalist associates strongly denied the accusations.

Earlier this week law-enforcement authorities signaled their intention to implicate Sefilian in the Erebuni attack as well.

The attack has been condemned by the United States, the European Union and Russia.